US presence

Colombia's president said on Monday that his administration is in discussion with Washington over the presence of US troops at Colombian military bases.
 

"Of course they use euphemisms and say they aren't Yankee bases, but rather Colombian bases and that they could come"

Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela

"The accord is to strengthen Colombian military bases, not to open US bases,'' Alvaro Uribe said in a speech to congress.

Defence officials say that the negotiations refer to three Colombian airfields and two navy bases.

An accord between Washington and Bogota is needed to bolster security in Colombia, but Chavez has accused the Colombian government of allowing the US to get a stronger foothold in Latin America.

"Of course they use euphemisms and say they aren't Yankee bases, but rather Colombian bases and that they could come," he said on Monday, according to the state-run Bolivarian News Agency.

"They're going to be there permanently,'' he said.

Bilateral deal

There was no immediate reaction to Chavez's statement from the Colombian government.

Colombian officials say the contingent of troops sent to Colombian military bases will not take the number of US service personnel and civilian military contractors beyond the 1,400 permitted by the US congress.

Colombia has received more than $4bn in US aid in the last nine years as part of an effort to tackle the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), an armed group classed as a terrorist organisation by Bogota and Washington.

Farc, which has fought against the Colombian government since 1964, has drawn some of its finances from criminal activities including drug trafficking, kidnappings and extortion.